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Ship breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship breaker (edition 2010)

by Paolo Bacigalupi

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1,924None3,540 (3.91)149
Title:Ship breaker
Authors:Paolo Bacigalupi
Info:New York : Little, Brown, 2010.
Collections:Read but unowned

Work details

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

2010 (21) 2011 (25) adventure (91) dystopia (180) dystopian (58) environment (18) family (29) fantasy (31) fiction (135) friendship (32) future (37) global warming (26) Gulf Coast (38) New Orleans (46) post-apocalyptic (77) poverty (25) Printz Award (38) read (16) recycling (19) sailing (16) science fiction (247) sf (30) sff (17) ships (51) survival (32) teen (27) to-read (77) YA (131) young adult (152) young adult fiction (25)
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    wifilibrarian: Rootless shares several themes and settings with Ship Breaker. Both stories have teen male protagonists with family issues, and both stories are set in future worlds where the environment has collapsed due to human interference. Both include the setting of a future dystopian/post-apocalyptic New Orleans.… (more)
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» See also 149 mentions

English (151)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (152)
Showing 1-5 of 151 (next | show all)
A wonderful book with memorable characters with heart and courage to do what they need to do to survive, brutal or not. The story is imaginative and set in an unnerving future that is a result of the current environmental and political climate. The author's ability to build a world that is hard to take but clearly believable is amazing. Great book. ( )
  cfranson | Mar 23, 2014 |
Paolo Bacigalupi's novel, winner of the 2011 Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, starts from a very different premise than many of the recent dystopian blockbusters: this is post-global-warming America, a land of "Drowned Cities" where kids are put to work salvaging copper and other reusable materials from the wreckage of the "Accelerated Age." The work is "green," but the labor conditions are akin to slavery; in a strange (and perhaps unintentional) nod to Frederick Douglass' narrative, the protagonist, a teen boy named Nailer, looks out to the Clipper ships that fly across the Gulf of Mexico and dreams of the freedom that they symbolize.

But Nailer is a shipbreaker, working light crew: since he's small, he's sent into the ducts of the abandoned oil tankers along the Gulf Coast to salvage whatever copper, aluminum, or other reusable materials he can pull out. It's dreadful work--the opening scenes of Nailer crawling through the ductwork are so tautly written that the reader feels as claustrophobic as Nailer does. If he fails to meet quota, or gets injured, or simply outgrows his usefulness, he'll be cast out onto the beach to fend for himself--an even more terrifying prospect than the work he already does. There, he's subject to the Harvesters, who will buy his blood and any "optional" organs (an eye, a kidney) in exchange for money. Or they might just kidnap him and take them anyway.

To add to his misery, his father is a violent drunk and a drug addict, although fortunately Nailer has an alternate family in his coworker Pima and her mother Sadna. When one of the frequent "city wrecker" hurricanes comes through, Nailer grudgingly saves his father. Afterwards, as Nailer and Pima search for food, they come across an amazing find: a Clipper ship loaded with not only food, but silver, gold, and its barely-alive passenger, Nita, who turns out to be the daughter of a hugely wealthy shipping magnate. She's in danger from some of her father's men who've turned traitor, and Nailer and Pima are faced with the difficult decision of whether they're willing to help a "swank," or sell her to her father's enemies at a profit.

_Shipbreaker_ creates a fascinating and all-too-believable world post-environmental meltdown: a place where energy companies rule, where battles are fought between ships carrying freight over the Arctic circle (now navigable, the polar ice caps having melted), and where the poor are left to fend for themselves on the coasts while the rich move further inland.

It's a rich, complex, and well-developed scenario, which is why I find the novel's conclusion to be a bit disappointing. Bacigalupi's novel creates lots of potential for exploring and questioning the possible end result of our reluctance to address issues like climate change, globalization, and the growing income gap--and to some degree, especially early in the novel, it does those things and does them well. But as the novel winds down, it becomes much more focused on the individual fates of Nailer, Nita, and Pima, rather than on the fate of everyone who's caught in this hellish scenario. There's a token nod to the possibility of change--one of the large salvage companies has promised to "do something about this place"--but after the various companies have proven that there's nothing they won't do to gain more power, can we really trust that? It seems a pretty slim possibility, but it's one that Nailer and his crew seem willing enough to believe at the end. Has Nailer become like the "swanks" himself at the end? Has his own personal comfort made him inured to what others are still suffering? ( )
  rvhatha | Mar 1, 2014 |
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. The writing was concise without being overblown. The characters were unique, including but not limited to the half-men. I was impressed by the world building. There was the obvious event of climate change, but there other details as well. Instead of an assumption of total collapse, the story assumed innovation. Instead of just focusing on the "consequences" of climate change, the story explored the "consequences" of class disparity. The growing wealth gap is very much in the media and public consciousness, but it is hardly addressed in YA lit. There was also a slight nod to the changing demographic make-up of the world, especially in the United States.

I'm looking forward to the 2nd book.

( )
  Angelina-Justice | Feb 3, 2014 |
I didn’t care much for this one.
  butterkidsmom | Jan 18, 2014 |
Ship Breaker (2011) is the second novel I've read by Paolo Bacigalupi, after his excellent debut "The Windup Girl." It tells the story of Nailer, a teenage boy who works as a ship breaker (a member of a crew who scavenges rusty ship hulks for raw materials) on the Gulf Coast in a world ravaged by climate change.

It's an excellent story with a brisk pace, some very likable characters, and an excellent setting that evokes a somewhat plausible, dark future. (The main exception is the presence of a genetically engineered branch of humanity, a concept that too advanced for the rest of the setting and seems like an imported idea from "The Windup Girl.") The focus of the story is firmly on the characters and their struggles to survive and, when possible, to achieve a better life- not on technology or science. The plot is well-designed, tightly choreographed, and does not leave many loose ends.

Bacigalupi is a strong writer of action and fight sequences, which are varied and tense. On the downside, the characters are not prone to some of the complexities and emotions that drive real people. Though they have strong, distinct personalities, sometimes these personalities are conveyed a little bluntly through their dialogue. The protagonists rarely let anything interfere with a rational analysis of the best course of action, even in taxing and time-pressured circumstances when such analysis might be difficult.

The book doesn't attempt philosophical musings or deep insight into any aspect of the human condition, science, or the like. It stays focused squarely on telling Nailer's story. This is a weakness relative to "The Windup Girl," which explored a greater number and complexity of interesting ideas.

Nonetheless, "Ship Breaker" is a strong book for adults or young adults. (It's probably not the best choice for younger kids, since it is best appreciated by someone with an understanding of child labor issues, abusive parents, environmental pollution, and climate change.) ( )
  jrissman | Jan 2, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 151 (next | show all)
Bacigalupi is a highly acclaimed adult sci-fi writer, and Ship Breaker won last year's prestigious Printz award for young-adult fiction in the US. It's a taut, disciplined novel, moving with tremendous coiled energy and urgency. I found it a tad colourless in places, but Nailer is a fine hero, complicated and questioning, always wondering whether he's doomed to inherit his father's failings or whether he can make his own destiny.

Which is, of course, the essential question of every dystopia. And basically the essential question of every teenager, too. Why do teenagers like dystopias? Simple. They're looking for proof that there's a way to survive the one in which they're already living.

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paolo Bacigalupiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Caplan, DavidDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Horváth, NorbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Swaab, NeilCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warner, BobCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Nailer clambered through a service duct, tugging at copper wire and yanking it free.
The blood bond was nothing. It was the people that mattered. If they covered your back, and you covered theirs, then maybe that was worth calling family. Everything else was just so much smoke and lies. (p. 274)
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Book description
Even at night, the wrecks glowed with work. The torch lights flickered, bobbing and moving. Sledge noise rang across the water. Comforting sounds of work and activity, the air tanged with the coal reek of smelters and the salt fresh breeze coming off the water. It was beautiful.

In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota — and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life — strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life...

In this powerful novel, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers a thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in a vivid and raw, uncertain future.


Set initially in a future shanty town in America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being disassembled for parts by a ragtag group of workers, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. The harsh realities of this life, from his abusive father to his hand-to-mouth existence, echo the worst poverty in the present-day third world.

When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth, or rescue the girl, Nita, at great risk to himself and hope she'll lead him to a better life. This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss. Yet amidst the shadows of degradation, hope lies ahead.

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In a futuristic world, teenaged Nailer scavenges copper wiring from grounded oil tankers for a living, but when he finds a beached clipper ship with a girl in the wreckage, he has to decide if he should strip the ship for its wealth or rescue the girl.… (more)

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